I first posted this back in 2013 but I believe that it is still valid and relevant. I would add that the Chinese have made several advances in their space program since then, and it will likely be their achievements we will read about in the not so distant future.
During the Republican Primary debates during the 2012 election Newt Gingrich was severely criticized for advocating not only a return of the space program, but a lunar base. He should have been applauded by all but was derided by most. How short sighted we all are.
Think about this for a minute. Our economy used to be based on manufacturing goods. After WWII we were really getting good at manufacturing good, quality products not found anywhere else in the world. We made good stuff which we bought, and then sold to everyone else. A good system supported by the solid principle of supply and demand that allowed us to prosper and thrive for a generation. Our downfall, which is still in progress, is in part due to the affluence of our people post WWII, as well as the industrialization of other countries during this same period. As we get richer we have to pay our workers more, which in turn makes our products more expensive as companies attempt to offset costs to maintain profits. This means that we buy cheaper imported goods and products from other countries. Over time this has led to a near collapse, comparatively, of our manufacturing sector as well as a dependence on other countries for countless items we no longer can or are willing to produce.
Couple all that with the exponential growth of the service industry since the dawn of the internet era, which doesn’t produce anything at all, and we have an economy based mostly on serving someone else in some way. What happens when people can no longer afford your particular service? Well, you’ll probably lose your job, obviously. As will more and more in the industry in an increasing snowball effect that eventually spills into the remaining workforce. The more unemployed, the less people buying stuff and keeping the wheels of the economy turning.
Nothing new here I know, but the question really is, “What can we do about it?” This is where Newt had insight. The key element in the question is “we”. The only value in investing our future in an industry at this point is if we have a clear edge and there is a guarantee of a return. Space fits both criteria. Currently there is no one on the planet that even comes close to our capabilities in the aerospace industry for a project of this scope and scale, with the possible exception of China, which lacks the experience in practical applications and still relies heavily on stealing advanced technology rather than creating any. Much of the science for such an endeavor has been and is being created here, as well as the most cutting edge technologies. In short, we alone possess the means, infrastructure, experience, and technological expertise to actually make it happen.
So we decide it’s a good idea, what do we get? Short term, we get jobs. Launching a project this large would be truly national in scope. Probably the equivalent of several times what the Manhattan project cost for it’s day. The biggest benefit is that most of the money stays here since the industry doesn’t exist anywhere else. Some raw materials and components would undoubtedly be obtained elsewhere, but the majority would be staying in the USA. Secondary benefits would no doubt come from the research and development of new products related to the industry as well as from discoveries made during research that was unable to be done on Earth, as has been the case since the dawn of the space program, with enormous potential for advances in power/energy production, storage, and distribution in particular. Also, let us consider that scientists believe that most elements, including water, can be found in unimaginable quantities in our solar system, as well as the possibility of yet undiscovered ones.
Then you look down the road a bit. With such an investment in a technologically advanced industry as aerospace, there will be a renaissance in math and science. Colleges and universities will be bursting with students needing advanced education and training. Even technical colleges and trade schools will need to expand to keep pace with the demand for skilled workers to build and maintain manufacturing and production facilities. Immigration disputes with Mexico will all but vanish when skilled jobs are plentiful and manual labor is once again in demand.
Now look even farther down the road. A large asteroid the size of the one that killed the dinosaurs strikes the earth and wipes out life as we know it as we view the event from the safety of the lunar base our technology and foresight allowed us to create. Or, maybe we develop the technology that allows us to save ourselves from annihilation. It may sound like science fiction, but that’s how going to the moon sounded at the beginning of the 60’s. It’s been over 50 years since then and if we just make the commitment to do it, there’s no reason we can’t make it a reality. And ALL cosmologists agree than it’s not IF but WHEN the next “planet killing event” will happen. If our species is to survive the test of time on a cosmic scale, we MUST colonize space, and the logical first step is a lunar base.
This is in NO WAY an endorsement of Newt Gingrich, although I acknowledge his insight, intelligence, and patriotism, and appreciate his service to our country.
Posted 4th September 2013 by Dyrtyredd